By Nawab Khan
BRUSSELS, Feb 17 (KUNA) -- It is quite alarming that Islamic organisations
and Muslim community leaders in Europe have kept silent on the growing horse
meat scandal even though investigations and media reports in recent days are
uncovering that the issue is also related to Halal meat products.
According to Dutch media reports, one Dutch businessmen linked to the
European horsemeat scandal has previously been convicted by a court for
passing off horse as Islamic halal-slaughtered beef. The businessman, Jan
Fasen, received a one-year suspended jail sentence in January 2012, after he
sold horse meat imported from South America as halal-slaughtered Dutch beef.
Fasen is the director of a Cyprus-based meat trading company called Draap
Trading, which reportedly is the link between Romanian abattoirs and a French
food supplier that sold frozen horse meat as beef products. However, Fasen has
issued a statement through his lawyer denying any involvement in the scandal.
Simon Coveny, Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, last
week, admitted that small traces of pork have also been found in beef products
in Europe and media reports said a Northern Ireland-based company was the
supplier of Halal food found to contain traces of pork DNA.
The British daily, The Telegraph, last week, reported that "there have been
reports of chicken being secretly injected with waste from the beef and pork
production process to inflate chicken breasts to fetch a higher price."
"The findings are particularly sensitive because Muslims, Jews and Hindus
are forbidden from eating either pork or beef," it said.
In an article on the online magazine "Spiked," Rob Lyons, a regular
commentator on television and radio in the UK, wrote that "The other element
to the scandal, the discovery of pork in beef products, even some that were
labeled "halal" and therefore presented as suitable for Muslims - has
attracted far less attention."
"However the implication that someone's deeply held religious beliefs have
been trampled upon by contaminating their food with pork seems a more
significant issue than the negligible risks to health from horsemeat," he
Initially, the European Union tried to downplay the whole scandal by
declaring it as a labeling issue, but as the public outcry became louder,
Brussels engaged the EU police agency, Europol, to coordinate Europe-wide
fraud investigation amid allegations of an international criminal conspiracy
to substitute cheaper horse meat for more expensive beef.
The scandal has exposed a wide web of abattoirs and meat suppliers in 16
European countries. The European meat industry is worth billions of euros each
year and no European country wants to be held responsible for the scandal.
Worse still, no one knows for how long this fraud has been going on, or if
some of the products were exported to Muslim countries. The scandal came to
light in January when food inspectors in Ireland found horsemeat in burgers
being sold in some UK supermarket chains.
Observers say that investigations must also clarify if some of these horse
meat products found their ways into Arab and Muslim countries. Moreover,
Muslim countries must now strengthen their control on all halal meat products
from Europe to verify if they are really halal or not.
Analysts are saying that had a company based in Asia, or Africa or the Arab
world indulged in such a heinous scandal, the EU would have immediately put
that firm on the blacklist and banned import of all its products and probably
from the whole country without waiting any investigations.
An article in the British weekly magazine Economist noted that few Western
countries have laws explicitly regulating halal products.
"Governments prefer to rely on private companies and market forces to do
the job. If people find out certified items are not as pure as they claim to
be, they stop buying them," it said. "But with Muslim populations swelling
throughout Europe and the business of religiously approved goods booming, the
question of how to regulate such products is becoming more urgent," it added.
The global halal food market is worth USD 700 billion, noted the Economist.
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